Many drivers assume the state laws and compensation for injuries, wage loss, etc., are the same whether you are involved in a car accident or a truck accident. Yet there are distinct differences between the two and understanding them is key to protecting yourself if you have been in a truck accident. Legal advice on dealing with insurance, medical issues and claims has been summarized below with things you need to know about these types of accidents:
1. Even if it’s a minor accident, contact local police, seek medical attention if needed and document the accident.
Following any truck accident, the victim should contact the nearest police department and immediately seek medical attention for all injuries. Be sure to report and document any minor pain that may seem less important at the time compared to more serious injuries. Significant injuries are often masked early on, making it difficult to link them to the truck accident if they are not documented.
It’s crucial to obtain contact information for any passengers and witnesses involved in the accident. This information will be extremely important if it becomes necessary to hire a lawyer, because all too often, the truck driver who caused the accident will change his story along the way. Furthermore, if witness information is not preserved at the scene, or if it’s missing from the police investigation, it becomes much more difficult for an attorney to prove negligence.
2. Notify your auto insurance company immediately.
In some states, there’s a strict, one-year time limit to notify your own insurance company of a truck accident, and to file an application to receive compensation for your medical bills and other benefits.
Filing an application for benefits form with your insurance company is essential for protecting your rights, even if your injuries do not seem severe. The form is required to receive five important benefits: medical expenses related to the auto accident, wage loss for the first three years following the accident, household replacement services (chores/help with children), payment for mileage to and from medical appointments and attendant care (nursing services). Use the form available through your auto insurance company. Please be as accurate and complete as possible, and include all of your injuries and impairments.
If a truck accident victim fails to adhere to this one-year deadline on time, he/she can lose this important coverage. There is also a time limit to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver’s truck insurance company. In addition to the above deadlines, many auto insurance policies pose even more strict notification requirements, such as 30 days notice for hit-and-run truck crashes.
3. Retain an experienced attorney quickly.
Trucking companies are required by federal and state law to keep records of safety inspections and drivers’ hours. Because bad equipment and driver fatigue cause many truck accidents, these records could prove liability against the trucking company. But after a certain period of time, trucking companies by law can dispose of pre-trip inspection documents and log books. That’s one important way that a truck crash is very different from a car crash. It is imperative that an experienced truck accident lawyer be retained as soon as possible before important records are intentionally (and legally) destroyed.
4. Check your auto insurance policy for uncoordinated benefits.
It’s important to quickly review your auto insurance policy and any additional contractual coverage you might have. There can be some common pitfalls and loopholes posed by some typical auto insurance policies. For example, some people have lost thousands of dollars because they did not understand the interplay between health insurance plans, managed care plans and retirement plans. Most policies are coordinated, meaning that if you have existing health insurance in the event of a truck accident, your health insurance pays first and your auto insurance pays the remaining balance. With uncoordinated coverage, truck accident victims may be entitled to receive a “double dip recovery” under the policy.
5. Never sign a release or give statement to an insurance claims adjuster.
Since it’s common for trucking companies to send defense attorneys, investigators and insurance adjusters immediately to the accident scene to lessen the company’s liability, do not speak with them or sign anything. Otherwise, you could unknowingly relinquish your rights or put your truck accident case in jeopardy. Never give statements to any truck accident claims adjuster and never sign a release or allow the adjuster to look at the auto damage – without speaking to your truck accident attorney first. Simply tell the adjuster that you need to review the paperwork with your attorney and will get back to them with your response.
Too many people rush into signing adjusters’ documents without having the language reviewed by an attorney. Therefore, they may lose their right to sue the negligent truck driver and the trucking company for accident-related injuries. Claims adjusters often try to get recorded statements early, aiming to minimize the accident victim’s pain and injuries for later use in court. Even limited property damage releases can contain unrelated language releasing all personal injuries suffered from a car accident.